Intel Corp.s failure last week to go through with a scheduled presentation of a new 64-bit processor fueled speculation that the chip may endure delays.
Aside from the withdrawal at the International Solid-State Circuits Conference here, there are other indications the processor, code-named McKinley, may be running behind schedule. For one, the processors design has yet to be sent off for manufacturing, as was expected late last year.
McKinley processors are scheduled to be released in pilot systems this year. Meanwhile, Itanium, Intels original 64-bit chip, which was due to be launched last year, has yet to be released.
Intel officials downplayed the cancelled presentation. "Basically, after reviewing what was submitted to the conference, we just thought it was too early in the ballgame to release that sort of architectural information," said an Intel spokeswoman.
Intel, of Santa Clara, Calif., expects to use its 64-bit, or IA-64, chips to break into the high-end server market dominated by RISC processors from Sun Microsystems Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co. and IBM.
While the 800MHz Itanium, now due this quarter, will be the first available IA-64 chip, many within the industry view it only as a software development platform. However, the 1.2GHz McKinley is expected to perform twice as fast as Itanium on some applications and is seen as competitive with RISC.
Intels IA-64 program, begun in 1994, has been plagued by delays. Although Intel maintains Itaniums delay wont affect McKinley, contending the two products have different design teams, one analyst said Itaniums delays will impact McKinley.
"The McKinley team is in flux until the Itanium team actually locks down the chip and delivers it in final form," said Rob Enderle, an analyst at Giga Information Group Inc., in Santa Clara. "That really hasnt happened yet."
McKinleys no-show at the ISSCC didnt go unnoticed by Intels rivals. "What IA-64? What Itanium?" IBM researcher Robert Montoye asked during a panel discussion at the conference. "Has anyone seen an IA-64? Does anyone know when its coming out?"
An official with Houston-based Compaq Computer Corp., which plans to integrate Intels 64-bit chips into its servers, said Intels cancellation will further erode confidence in the IA-64 products.
"People will assume the worst," he said, asking that his name not be used. "Intel has its work cut out for it in winning over support for the IA-64."